Has your business ever considered utilising the benefits of mentoring to help build a robust team?
October 27th is National Mentoring Day, and we at Yozu wanted to share some insights into how we have implemented mentoring into our business in a manageable and successful way. Read on for our recommendations on how mentorship can support business growth and improvement.
By definition, mentoring is a reciprocal relationship that typically sees two members of an organisation (or sometimes different organisations) collaborate to aid the mentee’s personal development. Mentoring is not coaching or counselling – it is an informal environment where actionable and manageable goals are set relative to the challenges the mentee seeks to overcome.
Mentoring is broader than the common perception of a junior team member being guided by a seasoned pro – there are other less familiar forms of mentoring too, but we’ll come back to that later.
The mentee might be a graduate-level team member embarking upon their first role in software development. But they might be a career-changing employee with bags of experience, but needs a deeper level of support in a new topic area.
Timing is everything
Often, it can be an overlooked activity to assign someone a mentor – particularly in a new field of activity – and we might mistakenly expect the individual to learn via generic training content or teach themselves through building personal experience.
By throwing a team member in at the deep end, management time might be saved initially however, in the long term, it can also be a mistake.
By not providing support that aids problem-solving, confidence-building and improving overall performance, many issues that an individual may encounter will not reveal themselves immediately, and it is common for mentoring or training to then be considered at a later stage.
What forms can mentoring take?
There are plenty of formats for mentoring, but speaking from experience, we have found these three types to be beneficial:
Group mentoring – one mentor working with a group of mentees in a given topic area. A complex technical challenge that needs to be solved, a new product to integrate into the business or simply an open discussion group where many topics can be explored.
There are many ways to help a group of mentees learn, and we have often applied practical challenges to aid the development of our team.
This form of mentoring is an efficient way of providing support if your business does not have the resources or capacity to dedicate one-to-one time to many individuals.
Peer Mentoring – removing (to an extent) the experienced vs inexperienced nature of mentoring, we have found peer mentoring to be a valuable exercise in encouraging our team to share experiences and support knowledge-building in a reciprocal way.
Peer-to-peer has worked well in software development, with ‘pair-programming’ helping two developers tackle a feature in development together for both individuals to create the capability from their individual experience to not only get the immediate task completed, but to then have the confidence to undertake related work independently in the future.
One-to-one mentoring – the traditional model of an experienced person guiding an inexperienced individual in an area the mentee is required or wishes to develop in.
We have had great success using this model, and the ease at which it can be undertaken can allow any business to apply mentoring in some form when time allows.
It might be a monthly off-site coffee for an hour, or a more focused session tackling agreed problems. You can essentially set one-to-one mentoring up in any form that works for both parties.
A simple model we have used for individual mentoring is cunningly called ‘GROW’.
The GROW Model in mentoring is a simple four-step process that helps mentors and mentees structure their conversations and focus on the mentee’s goals.
The acronym GROW stands for:
- Goal: What does the mentee want to achieve?
- Reality: What is the mentee’s current situation?
- Options: What are the mentee’s options for achieving their goal?
- Will: What actions is the mentee willing to take to achieve their goal?
Here are some tips we have found useful when using the GROW Model in mentoring:
- Be supportive and encouraging. The mentee should feel comfortable sharing their goals, challenges, and ideas.
- Ask open-ended questions. This will help the mentee to explore their thoughts and feelings more deeply.
- Listen carefully to the mentee’s responses. Don’t interrupt or offer advice too quickly.
- Help the mentee to develop their own solutions. The mentee is more likely to be committed to a plan of action if they have created it themselves.
- Celebrate successes along the way. This will help the mentee to stay motivated and on track.
Why a mentoring programme in your business is important
Mentoring programmes can provide a number of benefits for businesses and individuals alike. We’re a business that thrives on sharing knowledge and experience to support lifelong learning, and mentoring has absolutely been a platform to facilitate these values.
For businesses, mentoring programmes can help to:
- Improve employee engagement and retention
- Increase productivity and innovation
- Develop future leaders
- Create a more inclusive and supportive workplace culture
For individuals, mentoring programmes can help to:
- Accelerate career growth and development
- Improve job satisfaction and well-being
- Build confidence and self-awareness
- Develop new skills and knowledge
It may take up some time over the course of a month, but, in our experience, the rewards outweigh the risks and (so far) we haven’t undertaken any mentoring that hasn’t delivered some business value.
How easy is it to introduce a new mentoring programme?
Introducing a new mentoring programme in your business can be relatively easy, especially if you already have a strong culture of learning and development.
If you feel you can set up a more structured programme, here are a few steps to get you started:
- Define your goals. What do you want to achieve with your mentoring programme? Are you looking to improve employee engagement, develop future leaders, or create a more inclusive workplace? Once you know your goals, you can start developing a programme tailored to your specific needs.
- Identify potential mentors and mentees. Look for individuals who are compatible in terms of their skills, experience, and personalities. You may also want to consider matching mentors and mentees based on their shared interests or goals.
- Provide training and support. Mentors and mentees should both receive training on the basics of mentoring, such as how to set goals, communicate effectively, and provide constructive feedback. You may also want to provide ongoing support to mentors and mentees throughout the programme.
- Monitor and evaluate your programme. It is vital to track the progress of your mentoring programme and make adjustments as needed. You can do this by conducting surveys, interviews, and focus groups with mentors and mentees.
What’s stopping you?
Businesses can create a more engaged and productive workforce by providing employees with the opportunity to learn from and connect with more experienced colleagues.
Individuals can also benefit from mentoring programmes by gaining new skills and knowledge, developing their careers, and improving their overall well-being.
If you are considering introducing a mentoring programme (or are personally looking for mentoring help in some form), several resources are available to help you get started.
A simple web search will unearth a host of organisations, but here are some of our recommendations:
MentorsMe – for organisations and individuals looking for mentoring help
Enterprise Nation – find mentors for you or your senior team
Digital Boost – strategy, marketing, digital, and finance mentoring for business leaders
Association of Business Mentors – find a mentor, seek inspiration for implementing a programme, or get qualified as a mentor
For further technology and business articles, take a look around our Insights section on the Yozu website